On Saturday morning I was laying in bed. It was raining, but I knew if I didn’t go hiking, I would sit around all day and do nothing. So by 7 I was on the road, headed to Hunter Mt, the 2nd tallest Mt in the southern Catskills.
Finding the backside of Hunter Mountain is easy enough, head west on NY23A from Tannersville, right before the village head south on NY 214, park on the right.
There were only 5 other people on the trial that day, it was rainy, foggy, kind of warm, but otherwise miserable. I reached the top in about an hour and 10 minutes. It is a rather steep climb, gaining 2,200 feet of elevation in 2.3 miles. There is not much to see along the way, some cool rock formations, but this is mostly a put the head down and start hiking type of trail. The end goal is the fire tower at the top which is supposed to provide magnificent views, if it isn’t thick-as-pea-soup fog out.
On my way up, I noticed some scat, the kind or type I could not place, as never having remembered seeing anything like that – not that I look at it much. My thoughts went to bears, and how probably if I ever encountered one, that I more than likely could beat it off, I did after all have my Leatherman on my belt.
I quickly made it to the top and climbed the fire tower. There was nothing to be seen but your hand in front of your face. Being that I could not see a thing, had a quick bite to eat and headed down. On my way down I took it slow as I made my way over the slippery rocks and leaves. I was making decent time on my way down when something caught my eye, I looked up and about 25 feet in front of me was a black bear. I honestly had to take a second look for it to register what I was actually looking at, when it did register, I froze.
The bear got off of his front paws and let out a growl – this move was almost Hollywood perfect. I think we both surprised each other and we didn’t see each other until we were right on top of one another. Typically I hike with a friend and on our hikes down we are laughing, talking, joking, or whatever, probably loud enough to scare off any animals in a 10 mile radius – but I was alone this time, and wasn’t talking to myself.
First thing I thought of was get a picture, probably not the correct move, but I needed documentation, even if I did get mauled. I got a few quick pics off and then I thought it would be best if I backed off – which I did. He did not move. He just stared at me. I grabbed a big stick and started waving it around and making noise. He seemed amused, but did not move. It was a western standoff, and he was John Wayne and I was an extra. What felt like a half an hour probably lasted a minute or two
Eventually he ambled back into the woods off the trail, but before he left for good, he turned around and sat again, staring, judging. After becoming bored of me not entertaining him, he turned around for good and ambled off back into the woods so I could pass. I ran most of the way back down, both to put some distance between us, and because of the genuine excitement of the incident. I was flying high, excited at my first encounter, getting a picture of it. I have seen several bears before riding in my car in Massachusetts, but never without the protection of steel and a combustible gasoline engine to put some distance if things get hairy.